As election nears, Politico’s ‘Playbook’ fills up with Obama love

David Martosko Executive Editor
Font Size:

Playbook, the must-read daily political email digest for the political wonks that make up much of the Politico website’s steady readership, has taken on a decidedly pro-Obama tilt in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

The liberal news outlet isn’t often accused of favoring Republicans; but Mike Allen, who prepares the Playbook blast each morning, has included items recently that may indicate the sort of political preference that few outlets would put on display.

The Oct. 25 Playbook led with a recount of a fawning Rolling Stone interview of Barack Obama, including the president’s observation — likely pointing toward challenger Mitt Romney — that “kids have good instincts. … They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell.'”

The next three paragraphs of the missive’s 39 paragraphs — of which two were paid ads for the Nuclear Energy Institute’s “low-carbon, affordable electricity” — were self-promotional quotes from the Rolling Stone interview, offered by the president himself.

“It’s important for people to understand how much we’ve gotten done,” one began. “The list of things that we’ve accomplished, even once the Republicans took over [the House], is significant,” the other read, in part.

The third consisted of Obama promoting the preservation of the 2009 Obamacare law, his most prominent legislative achievement.

Of the 24 quotes, articles and observations in Thursday’s Playbook email that touched on the upcoming presidential election, 14 were favorable to the president. Just three were favorable to Romney. One of them, quoting  Romney’s political director on efforts to overcome the Democrats’ edge among early voters, was only marginally positive.

A large majority of the space allotted to discussing Romney in any fashion was devoted to three paragraph-length excerpts of a Politico exposé about Mitt Romney’s transition team, titled “How Romney would govern.”

Other pro-Obama items included a jovial quote from “The Tonight Show,” a note about former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama, an estimate of the president’s crowd size during a Wednesday night rally — 13,500, according to Allen, in an unspecified city — and a lengthy item, also from Rolling Stone, about Obama’s close relationship with Bill Clinton.

Romney’s overtly positive mentions were limited to a note, in the 16th paragraph, about an Associated Press poll showing the former Massachusetts governor had erased Obama’s previous 16-percentage-point lead among female voters; and a juxtaposition of two headlines appearing Thursday on the front page of the Des Moines Register.

“Obama sharpens criticism,” read one headline. “Romney expresses optimism,” read the other.

But even this seeming hat-tip to Romney’s surging popularity in some battleground states was likely the result of a tiff between the president and the Register’s editorial board. On Wednesday the paper’s management complained that Obama wanted to keep his lengthy conversation with the paper off the record.

Allen quoted two sections of the transcript that the Register released after Obama’s handlers relented and allowed the paper to publish his comments, which were recorded Tuesday during a phone call. But instead of publishing the most contentious part of Obama’s comments — a section in which he promised that “immigration reform” was something he intended to “get done next year” — Playbook printed only innocuous and self-congratulatory excerpts.

The morning email’s friendliness toward Obama’s re-election hopes was not a one-day occurrence.

On Wednesday, Playbook led with an editorial caveat that “Mitt Romney has a problem. Despite a great debate and what The Wall Street Journal’s Neil King Jr. on Sunday called a polling ‘surge,’ Romney has not put away a single one of the must-have states.”

The author, presumably Allen, wrote that this declaration was “an antidote to the (perhaps) irrational Republican exuberance that seems to have seized D.C.” He also called the news “a cold shower for the GOP.”

Tuesday’s Playbook led with a quick deconstruction of Romney’s performance in Monday night’s foreign policy debate, with Allen writing that the former governor’s “moderate, me-too rhetoric drew derision from the smart set.”

Among that “smart set,” Playbook identified only the liberal website Talking Points Memo and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

Following was a seven-paragraph section containing praise for a new Obama television ad — including a complete transcript — and five paragraphs of glowing analysis of the president’s glossy 20-page “New Economic Patriotism” brochure. That printed booklet contains what the Obama camp is calling his plan for a second term.

Allen provided a complete listing of all the brochure’s chapter headings and six separate Web links his readers could use to download the promotional package.

In that Playbook email, the first mention of Mitt Romney came in paragraph No. 13.

“ROMNEY and PAUL RYAN appear together today in Henderson, Nev., and (with Kid Rock) at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Golden, Colo. Look for Romney in Ohio later this week,” it read in its entirety.

TheDC has previously examined Politico’s leftward lean, including an analysis of one week in November 2011, when nine of the 16 news broadcasts on the liberal MSNBC network included at least one Politico guest. (RELATED — MSNBCPOLITICO: A commanding presence for Politico on the left’s favorite cable news channel)

Mike Allen often appears personally on a segment during MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show to promote the Playbook email. In his absence, Politico editor-in-chief Jim VandeHei and staff writer Patrick Gavin sometimes stand in.

TheDC emailed Mike Allen with a question about whether Playbook is sporting a “a decidedly pro-Obama tilt” in the run-up to Election Day.

“Have you put something new in the secret sauce in the days leading up to the election?” TheDC asked.

Allen did not respond.

Follow David on Twitter

David Martosko